Amid all the talk surrounding a possible sensational player swap involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, it might be easy to forget that Manchester United face a tricky trip to high-flying Burnley on Saturday afternoon, their first of three consecutive away matches. Jose Mourinho’s side have made an impeccable start to 2018, winning all three of their fixtures, scoring seven goals and conceding none. On Monday night, United eased to a comfortable 3-0 victory over struggling Stoke City at Old Trafford to cut Manchester City’s lead at the top of the table to 12 points.
Antonio Valencia, returning after nearly a month out through injury, opened the scoring against the Potters, before Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku rounded off the victory. All three could expect to retain their places in the starting line-up for the trip to Turf Moor this weekend. There are unlikely to be too many changes to the side that picked up all three points on Monday night, although Ashley Young has served his three-match ban is once again available for selection. However, Luke Shaw has been in impressive form at left-back over the last few weeks, meaning the 32-year-old may have to be content with a place on the substitute’s bench.
In midfield, Paul Pogba ran the show for the hosts against Stoke and Mourinho will be hoping for more of the same from the France international on Saturday, when he is likely to once again share the middle of the park with summer signing Nemanja Matic. Following his expertly taken strike on Monday, Anthony Martial should be given the nod to maintaining his place on the left-hand side of United’s attack, whilst Jesse Lingard, who has been in the form of his life in the past couple of months, could start through the middle.
It will be interesting to see whether Juan Mata will be included in Mourinho’s starting line-up on Saturday. The Spaniard missed a couple of good opportunities to add to United’s lead at the start of the week but whether the former Chelsea man retains his place will hinge on whether Sanchez will complete his much-anticipated move to Old Trafford in time. Should the Chilean be included in the matchday squad, the 29-year-old is likely to make his United debut from the off at Turf Moor. Meanwhile, Lukaku should once again lead the line for the Reds, having put in an impressive performance against the Potters, once which earned him his 16th strike of his maiden United campaign.
For all of United’s good work so far, this year, Burnley will be no pushovers and have enjoyed a fantastic campaign to date, occupying seventh place in the Premier League standings despite starting the season as many pundits’ favourites to suffer relegation to the Championship. Manager Sean Dyche will be without left-back Stephen Ward and summer signing Chris Wood, whilst former United duo Tom Heaton and Robbie Brady are also unavailable.
Having been held to a 2-2 draw by the Clarets at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, Mourinho will be determined to get one over Dyche’s men and make it four wins out of four in 2018. Whilst the gap at the top has been reduced slightly, United will be well aware that all they can do is keep winning their games and hope for a City slip-up.